JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Hurry up and wait while standing in line are just a few of the experiences shared by retired master sergeants Charles Anderson and Walter Meyers. Anderson and Meyers talk about how they entered a building named the Green Monster as civilians and exited as Airmen. Eyes front! No talking! Take what is given to you and hurry up!
502ABW/PA: Talk about your initial experience after getting off the bus at JBSA-Lackland in the 60s.
MEYERS: A drill instructor came over and lined us all up. We went to the barracks because it was late in the evening to sleep. The next morning, the first thing was breakfast, then we went to the Green Monster to pick up our clothing issue.
502ABW/PA: Walk us through the door of the Green Monster.
MEYERS: The first thing they did was measure your sizes, including your feet and your body. After that, you had a long line. They had different stations you went to with a piece of paper saying what your size was. They would hand you different types of items, such as your fatigues, your dress uniform and shoes. After that, they would take you back to the barracks. My most unique experience was meeting my cousin, who worked in the Green Monster.
ANDERSON: Everything was in a line. “Shut up, don’t make any noise.” “Get your haircuts.” Next was getting your fatigues. Maybe they fit, maybe they didn’t – but you took what was given to you.
502ABW/PA: What did you see when it came to people getting their haircut?
MEYERS: It was a butcher job. I mean, they just basically cleaned your head, and some of the guys had long hair -- “hippie-style” hair -- and I think they attacked them more than they did us who already had a clean basic haircut. I had my hair cut before I went to basic because I knew they were going to cut it, but they did a bang-up job of making me bald. When you sit in the chair, if you stayed in there one or two minutes, you were lucky. That’s how fast it was.
ANDERSON: It wasn’t “Let’s see if we can give you a decent haircut” – it was just shaving all your hair off and giving you a bald head.
502ABW/PA: Why did you join the Air Force?
MEYERS: I joined the Air Force because I wanted to do a little better in my life. I quit high school in my last half-year, and I went down to the recruiter and he told me if I passed the test, I could join the Air Force. I was first assigned to a supply squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. I took some college courses there and then after I left Barksdale, I went to Vietnam. After Vietnam, I went back to get the credits I needed to finish high school. I then went to Texas Southern University and got a degree in accounting and worked in civil service for more than 40 years and retired as a GS-13. So, to me, the Air Force was a stepping stone.
502ABW/PA: What was the “shock and awe” of basic training during your time?
MEYERS: Well, you’re used to being at home, with mama taking care of you. All of a sudden, all hell breaks loose when a drill instructor comes up and he doesn’t look too happy. It was like, “Oh, God, what am I … what did I get myself into?” And basically, I think everybody had that feeling.
ANDERSON: I’m still in shock about what I decided to do. Coming from a small town like Beaumont, Texas, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
502ABW/PA: Many people aren't familiar with the connection and camaraderie when you're thrown in with 40 to 50 other people doing the same thing called the United States Air Force. Can you share a little bit about what you learned?
MEYERS: Well, I was lucky because I took high school ROTC, so when I went into the military, it wasn't that difficult for me. The drill instructor made me the guidon bearer and I also was a chapel guide. Life for me really wasn't that bad because I had some sort of military experience from being in high school ROTC.
502ABW/PA: When people visit the JBSA-Lackland museum and see the Green Monster exhibit, what do you want them to pay attention to?
MEYERS: To try to get the feeling of how it was back in the day.
ANDERSON: That was a time in which we, as a nation, were struggling for what we say is a nation of laws. Everybody got a chance; everybody got a crack at it. I would say to people to look at the exhibits and think about the times, the changes, the challenges that were going on at the time. When I think of Lackland, I think of when we talk about cohesiveness and togetherness.
502ABW/PA: Is there anything else you'd like to add about the Green Monster.
MEYERS: The Green Monster, to me, I never can forget it because that was the first clue that I was in the military.
ANDERSON: That was a time in which we began to hopefully understand what it meant to be a team, working together. That was the beginning of the unity in the military that was required when you went to places like Vietnam and Korea. When you screamed out for a medic, you didn’t care what their color was.